Talking about Weaknesses

There is possibly more advice out there on answering a question about your weaknesses than on any other part of the interview process. I think perhaps that's because answering a question like this goes against what seems like the very nature of a job interview: you selling your positive attributes as a candidate. And so it requires a careful balancing act to answer the question without making yourself look bad.

I actually suggest having a few possible answers to this question prepared. You don't know whether they're going to ask the basic, "What are some of your weaknesses?" or something more targeted, like, "What is something you're looking to improve?" or "What is something you've had to work at in the last year?" I've also had the experience of an interviewer dismissing my first answer and asking again in a different way.

Here are my ABCD tips for answering a question like this

Avoid clichés. "I'm a perfectionist." "I work too hard." "I procrastinate." They've heard it. It's not believable, and it doesn't strengthen your case. You may have gotten the advice to provide a strength-as-weakness — something that they'll actually view an asset  but that misses the point of why they're asking this question.

Be honest. As with any interview question, your answer will be better if you can back it up with a specific example, which will be much easier if you're pulling an answer from your actual experience. Talk about a specific project where you realized this was a weakness, and the specific steps you took to remedy the situation.

Choose something tangential (but not irrelevant). In other words, the area where you're weak should not be one of the central skills listed on the job description. That's an immediate red flag. But neither should it be something that has zero bearing on your work; nobody cares that you're terrible at video games if you're applying to be a nurse, and there's no reason for you to need to improve that. Which brings us to…

Discuss your plan for improvement. This question provides an opportunity for you to show thoughtfulness in how you approach your work that is, you're skilled in the main areas of the job, but you're always looking for ways to get better. Either talk about how you've already been working to improve, or discuss how you would take advantage of the resources available in this job (Connect it back to the position) to strengthen your skills. What you are NOT doing here is trying to explain why your weakness is actually a strength.

See this question not as an obstacle to overcome but, just like any interview question, an opportunity to show that you understand what they're really interested in. What is that? We'll talk about that on Thursday.